Transcript prepared by Fielding M. McGehee III. If you use this material, please credit The Jonestown Institute. Thank you.
(Note: An edited transcript of the tape appears as part of an extended autobiographical statement here.)
Jones: I wanted to start this thought — I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to (tape stops)
Woman: And you’d like to stop, because you want to think, and it’s recording again. (tape stops)
Jones: (Spoken in a relative monotone throughout) Why I became my own brand of Marxist. Looking into childhood— (Pause) Scratch looking into childhood. Would I could talk as well as I think. That’s presumptuous, but thoughts move rapidly through the mind, and it’s difficult to capture them, to type them, to verbalize them. As a child, I was undoubtedly one of the poorer in the community. I had less of material comforts, although my mother made every effort to give me what she could. My dad was ill, and invalid from World War II— World War I. A very bitter, cynical person. He spent so much time being engrossed in his own pain, that he finally debilitated his health. Finally his health debi— de— totally de— was destroyed. (Sounds like tape pause). There’s a little town in Indiana. (Pause) The moment I think of it, a great deal of pain comes. I don’t think I shall mention it, although later we brought out because there’s no way reflecting upon individuals, just a little Hoosier town on the Ohio line. Thus I acted out against the conformities in the community. First way, uh, because I was never accepted — or didn’t feel accepted — I joined a Pentecostal Church, the most extreme Pentecostal Church, the Oneness, because they were the most despised. They were the rejects of the community. I uh, found immediate acceptance, and I must say, in all honesty, about as much love as I could interpret love. They were persecuted beyond measure for their beliefs. But after some time, intellectually I outgrew Pentecostalism, but still a rebel, still not a part of the society, never accepted, born as it were on the wrong side of the tracks. Thus— I’m facing the middle years, my memory dims or perhaps it’s because I have kept down much of the pain in my life in order to endure, suppressed, because it seems that I’ve had, uh, a great deal of pain for people who are, at least live in the Western World advanced societies. My pain cannot compare to those of the Third World who suffer such misery beyond human description.
But as I grew, I then at one point met a Communist. I’m stepping past a number of things because of no particular relevance, and I do not see myself as a great skilled author, any skilled author, so, thus I will confine myself to patterns that may explain Jim Jones and perhaps help others from making some of the same errors. I also hope it will make it possible for some to reach the sensitivity that I have reached for people and for living things. This communist was uh, beyond me, um, in terms of intellect. I didn’t understand all the arguments. I was a very very young person. I’d identified strongly with the Soviets for some reason as a youngster. When the Soviets were marching and news was praising them highly for their endurance in turning back the Nazi hordes in Stalingrad. I used to play as if I were a Russian soldier, rushing through the snow and killing Nazis, or driving Nazis, just like killing, uh— driving Nazis back. (Pause) It was a identification again, it was something outside of the American scene, perhaps, because I used to play the role of um, a Japanese, because I have a certain Asiatic appearance, and people would be amused by my imitations of Hirohito or Tojo. Always identifying with something other than the American society, because it did not, had not given me a feeling of acceptance.
This communist, though, apparently cold, befriended me in a way that no one had ever befriended me. I was working in a company and uh, had developed a sense of egalitarianism, a sense of uh, sensitivity through need of others, and at that point, I (Pause) both out of a sense of rebellion, someone who was more (struggles for words) macho-type personality and a racist, and I had early developed a sensitivity for the problems of blacks, too probably feeling as an outcast. I left my father’s home early and I had to go to work and live away from the home, because I brought the only black young man in the town home to my— to visit my dad and to visit my home, and my dad said that he could not come in, and I said, then I shan’t, and I did not see my dad for many years, or for some, some time thereafter, leaving the town and going to work at a very young age in a hospital. Some sec— sixteen to seventeen miles removed from the area. Anyway this uh, chap— (Pause) As I started to say, I’m— I’m rambling. I mentioned, I think, earlier in the discussion, I mentioned that I rebelled against a certain macho-type racist, and I took money from him, and did all sorts of sensitive things with it, in— I had a way of controlling the money of the salesmen, they brought it in and uh, giving them credits for the sales and I even shifted some of his money to another man who had a problem, as I believe, and I’m vague about it, but it seemed like a handicapped child. Then I took some money myself and uh, utilized it as young kids do, I presume. Or at least this young kid did. Some of it sensitively and some of it, I think, as I recall, for uh, personal indulgence. Anyway, I was apprehended. (Pause) Or the questions arose. Something was wrong with the books. And this uh, communist supervisor (Pause) shielded me, utterly de— protected me. I don’t know what he did, he— he must have made some adjustments with the company finances, and uh, utterly protected me from what would have been a terrible charge of uh, embezzlement, I guess. And it was the only time I have ever done such a thing. Anyway, you can agree— you can imagine the endearment I felt for this man. (Pause) Then he came to my uh, home. I was married at a young age. My wife and I came to (Pause) my home after that. Of course, I lost— I gave up my job. That was— that was worked out. I gave up my job, and— but with no bad record, and he uh, dined with me, a lonely man, perhaps, as I look back, perhaps he had other designs. (Pause) He was a bachelor, he could have been.
But anyway, for some reason he gave me his address and phone number, wanted me to follow it up. Life in its consuming pressures and having to get out and work to maintain my family, we were beginning to adopt a youngster at that time. So, I didn’t follow up, for one reason or another, and bore a great deal of guilt, all through my life, because the one man that saved me at that time from certain prison — I was in a — It was controversial. I had already developed my own controversial stands on race. I had begun to champion some of his communist ideology, and uh— Anyway, as, uh, as I said, I don’t want to give times or facts, because the man may have long since gone through (Pause) the situation. And he was a good man, and he may have made his transition to other views or positions. At least that moved me even further to consider Marxism. I shall call myself a Marxist, because certainly no one taught me my brand of Marxism. I read. I listened. Later in the university — I went back to the university — and I met another couple of communists. I guess I sought them out. Old time pro-Soviet Communists. They were so gracious, they received me in their home. A father and the son. The mother had died. Humble home outside of Bloomington, Indiana, where I went to university. (Pause) Friendship again seemed through life to be extended by people of that sort — or maybe I sought them out, I can’t say, with uh, utter, uh, honesty — but I certainly was shown a great deal of friendship by those types. I only remember one communist in Bloomington who was very gross. Then of course my circle went that way. Those were the people I sought for inspiration. Then I developed a definite concept with the problems of the world, the misery of the world, two out of three babies going to bed hungry, as late as uh, the Nixon years, when President Nixon pronounced that that was the case. I don’t remember the statistics of that time, but they certainly must have been hard, indeed. It seemed gross to me that one human being would have so much more than another. I, I couldn’t come to terms with capitalism in any way. I wanted to. I wanted to retreat from this gnawing sense of conscience that pushed me forward. (Pause) Then I decided, where can I demonstrate my Marxism? I demonstrated it in many places, and almost got into trouble in classrooms. An agent uh (Pause) checked on me because of my activities that took me to a Paul Robeson event. I went through considerable harassments that are unpleasant and painful. My mother was questioned by the FBI for several hours, brought out, and interrogated in front of her— set out in an open area where all of her uh, fellow workers at the factory would see her, and she was a shop stewardess. And I recall thereafter was relieved because of being questioned about my activities. She (Pause) took the Fifth Amendment. In those days, you did not do that. That was tantamount to admission of being a communist. And my poor mom knew nothing at all of politics. She was as apolitical as she could be, but (Pause) she believed in her son, which certainly has helped, perhaps, to some degree it— it hurt, but I would prefer the chances of, of the kind of belief that she had. She was a little indulgent of me at times, certainly from her limited means. Solid as the rock of Gibraltar. And she endured, not knowing either what I was up through, up to, they didn’t even tell her, that it was merely because I had been to a uh, an event where Paul Robeson sang and participated in Chicago. Um. She didn’t know what I’d done, but she defended me. She said ah, I refuse to testify on the grounds it might tend to incriminate me (Pause) or my son.
So on down the road, I became even more alienated by that event. I decided, how can I demonstrate my Marxism? The thought was, infiltrate the church. So I consciously made a decision to look into that pro— that prospect. Particularly was it inspired upon me — (struggles for words) I say infil— infiltrate the church. It really was brought to my attention by a very kindly (Pause) and I pause, because of again feeling that it can reflect on others — a man who had a great deal of conscience that seemed to be compatible to my views, who was a church administrator of a denomination, and he, he encouraged me to think about being a pastor. And so I did. (Laughs) Very quickly did. I’d had my religious heritage in Pentecostalism — deep-rooted emotions in the Christian tradition (Pause) and a deep love which I share to this day for the practical teachings of Jesus Christ. It had always been a sort of dual concept: a doubter, and yet a believer. Certainly I had great questions about anthropomorphic beings and a loving order to the universe, but Jesus Christ, to use a kid’s phrase, greatly turned me on. And I tried very hard through my years in the church — whatever uh, someone else might look upon my role uh, however they would look upon it, they could see a great deal of sensitivity to the Christian teachings. Not only my brand of Marxism, but in Pentecostal tradition, I saw that when the early believers came together, they sold their possessions and had all things common. So I tried very hard to live up to that concept throughout my years. (Pause)
The early years, I’d approached Christendom from a communalist standpoint, with only intermittent mention of my um, Marxist views. However, in later years, there wasn’t a person that attended any of my meetings that did not hear me say, at some time, that I was a communist, (Pause) and that is what is very strange, that all these years, I have survived without being exposed. The media — news media — were concerned that we were overreacting to coverage, as if only it was that that concerned me, that my exposure as a communist would affect the lives and well-being of my most precious family, and uh, dearest associates, and in fact, all of my church that had become an extended family. I was fearful of nothing else, there was nothing else in my life that I was afraid of, being revealed. But I think the media made a grave mistake in thinking that we, during the Nixon years, um, assisted — at least I got the impression from some that they have thought that — that we assisted people like [Los Angeles Times Bill] Farr because we were trying to um, get on the good side of the press. I really couldn’t think you could get on the good side of the press, because being a communist, I believed that the press — the myth of the adversary press, uh, to me was very very real — but whatever adversary role it played, it looked like it was played out in the Nixon years. So I took my stance. And then again, when I saw the Fresno situation, it reminded me all too well of that era, where newsmen are going to jail, for their sources about corruption at higher level. I think the very uh, same— by the same token, people who are anonymous sources could be devastating to li— little people who are unable to protect themselves. But the right of confidentiality of sources to reveal high level corruption was a very very important, uh— very important to me. (Pause)
One of the reasons I’m telling my story is because I certainly don’t feel any inclination as a writer. I (Pause) have a still great apprehension that the press — with the exception of some in the black and some of the communist-socialist press — I have the feeling that it would not give me a fair story. And that’s all I want, is a fair story. (Pause) And again, I really don’t, at this point, give a damn as to whether I have personal fairness, but as I am affected, so are all of my people. And I have developed through the years a high sensitivity to all the members of my church. They are, as to me, an extended family. And I don’t want to hurt them anymore. I want to try to give them uh, some relief of suffering. So, perhaps this writing will help that. I feel no idea that um, writings add significance. Great writers have written and uh, their words have been forgotten too soon with their departure, or if even remembered at any time, whether they were alive or dead. So, the— my main source of writing is not that I’m going to be in any way— the main por—purpose of writing is that, to help protect my people, because I really have a strong desire to die. At the time of this um, writing, I have been imprisoned in my mind for many, many years, constantly trying to conceal a lifestyle alien to the American society, that would have caused great pain for my devoted and precious wife, and uh, those who followed on in my footsteps to become socialist or communist — some I don’t think understood the difference, but everyone in our parish certainly subscribes to some form of socialism. (Pause) Anyway— (Pause) (Break in tape)
I’m not about to make any kind of great conversion speech. I would not want to uh, do anything but give the absolute honesty of my soul. I told you of the duality in my mind. A part of me emotionally is caught up with the Chri— Chri— Christian tradition. I’m more comfortable in the expression the warmth of a Pentecostal setting, and that’s why you saw that kind of a lifestyle, because it was in that setting, of freedom of emotion, that I felt my first acceptance. I found the same kind of spirit in the communist rallies that I attended. (Pause) And today, no matter what disillusionment I may have — and I have come to the point that I’m a communalist. I sought haven in a socialist country, (Pause) I theoretically feel that communism in unobtainable in the terms of man’s present evolution in the nuclear technology, (Pause) but I do believe that a communal lifestyle offers much to people, and it certainly is greatly accepted in the republic in which we lived in. At the time of this writing, we have received gracious acceptance. It’s not easy, wasn’t easy forging out a new community in the midst of a jungle, and we have done that. And we’ve been able to rehabilitate many people through our structure, some sent by courts, as Mr. Guy Wright of the Examiner wrote, but there— there’s— there’s just causes great great mystery to me that when Jim Jones made his transition to pure honest objectivity about himself and lost the zealot aspects of his belief, which could have been dangerous, because we went through the transition in which we even looked at violence, we were so alienated. (Pause) There were those that spoke it, there were those of us that championed it. (Pause)
Then about, just a few years ago, we rejected that, decided that violence was counter-productive, it would— (Pause) it’s dangerous to the people that get caught up in violence, we always found, that so many people who would, would suggest violence later would go, go out and be ve— very cruel in their lives. So we found that their revolutionary violence was an excuse for (Pause) just acting out from a baser instinct, their ill feelings towards humanity and life in general. (Pause) Then the, the most I suppose horrible fact of this present fuselage [fusillade] of news attack is that the people that were used as sources were for the most part, all of them the most militant advo— the most radical advocates of, not just violence, but terrorism. Most of the witnesses that appeared in the news article against us — and I don’t ask you to take my word, because I know that only one side has been listened to. I say, challenge them to a polygraph test, challenge them to truth serum. Test the accuracy of my voice under a test— uh— test situation, I’ll be glad to submit to a voiceprint on that particular subject. (Pause)
They went out one time from our church, having stripped him, uh, one man’s house, Mr. Kice, phoned— they stripped his phone uh, tore it out, so that they would be able to get away, knowing it— that what they would be doing would be not to our liking, contrary to our own beliefs, they got wire and equipment — so they said — and they stole his rifle, an expensive rifle of a thousand dollars, took the rifle and uh, I think took— borrowed the over thousand dollar rifle, and never returned it— it to this day, according to his report. Uh. They went out to, from the looks of the maps and their st— statements, to blow up some dam. They were going to do a revolu— revolutionary thing. One of them, named their uh, child after a uh, violent revolutionary. Odd that newspeople didn’t bother to check that part of their sources. And others of their sources suggested the most— of all the— (struggles for words) They were the most strong promoters of “The ends justifies the means.” Raising money, doing anything. I didn’t conceive of those notions, uh, uh, not once did I conceive of a notion of doing anything other than being completely, sensitively, a uh— (Pause) scratch uh, I didn’t conceive of those notions. I didn’t conceive of any notions that— that— to do devious things to parishioners. But there were those that went out that did, those that wanted to— they conceived mail ideas that were far out, but my problem was that uh, I didn’t check those people early enough (Pause) in some of their actions. They also took financial advantage of us — we have witnesses, and let them again take their own tests, because I— all of our witnesses have now been discredited by the obvious attempt to— apparent, let’s say apparent attempt to frame us. Let them take lie detector tests or truth serum, if they can deny it. They stole money from us. They lived off of us. One that said they had lost all their property, they lived off of us, one couple, lived off of us for years. One of them— One of them was so depraved sexually that they went— they molested one of their own children. Oh, more than that. A number of them molested children.
Um, we dealt with them, because we always believed that direct therapy, confrontation, catharsises, encounters, could help people through. And we’ve helped a good ninety percent of all that we ever dealt with through, so— we didn’t believe open exposure to the public or to outside agencies, we dealt with it inside, but we did open, openly confront matters in front of the whole church. And (Pause) ah, one of the women who did the most talking in one of her revelations about herself — and I wouldn’t reveal it, but she’s hurt so many others, I think that she needs to face her own self — she said that her sexual pleasure came from imagining a child being tortured. Let her, again, take a test and deny that, see if she can deny that successfully before an objective polygraph test that we all agree upon.
The uh, matter is that that created the greatest difficulty for us in Peoples Temple, because we rejected violence at that juncture, when those folk went out, totally. We decided we would work within society and attempt to make changes within society, to show that communists were not bad people, that they care, that they were sensitive. We made errors. Undoubtedly we did, in some of our discipline, some of our structures, but this business of beating children to d— ah, unmercifully, no, no way. I took even beatings for children that were far more severe than any child ever was given. These decisions were made through group efforts and parental consent, but most part, our therapy was not one of coercion. But we found that some people were masochistic, and in order to keep them from not ah, a simple embrace of a long t— lost friend, like was suggested, who happened to be a lesbian, but to get a young woman out of an adult relationship that was very ill indeed, with another woman, plus her (Pause) anti-social behavior that would have put her in jail, (Pause) klept— her, her stealing that would have— was harmful to her and her community and her family and her church, uh, she uh, agreed to a spanking, and her parents did also, very cooperatively. It’s most sickening to see people who now come out against an institution that has achieved so much good. We have saved homes. Now we’re being accused of taking people’s homes. Taking people’s homes? The few homes that have ever been turned over to us, the people have gotten far more out of it — and will get far more out of it, if people will quit trying to destroy us — even have gone so far as to try to poison people on this side of uh, our work, across the seas in our agricultural project.
No, uh, what other church transports its people and non-members, people that judges have asked us, people that were absolute hell-raisers in the Bay Area and the Los Angeles basin, got them out of dope traffic, pushing, heroin-pushing, violence, gangland leaders, now they’re the most con— (Pause) well, socially contributing people that you’d want to find in the structure of our commune, which is very relaxed. Certainly nothing, nothing like the type of thing that you’ve even sa— uh, heard in the news (struggles for words) just a few miles away from San Francisco. Very happy? We are very happy. We’ve had visitors such as Lieutenant Governor [Mervyn] Dymally. And we’re very happy to have objective witnesses to our program at this time. We had uh, an offer, we made an offer to a local channel to do that, but uh, that wasn’t taken up, but since then, there are those who want to look at it in their own bias, and we refuse to have anyone come in unless we can be assured of a mixture of people that will go away and give a honest report. (Pause) It’s a lovely place, with progressive schools, the housing is most adequate — simple structure, aluminum roofs, lovely beds and beautiful mattresses and all the bed linens they need and all the food they can eat — I mean all the— that they can eat. Literally. Recreational sports, ah, ah, games uh, chess, good film library, movie brought in, swimming, boating, fishing (Pause) and a reasonable day’s work of uh, work that’s an eight-hour day, as is, is the custom. Some choose by uh, dedication to help others have this opportunity to work beyond that, but there’s no — no, there’s no requirement. We have the machine shop, sawmill, mechanical garage where people learn uh, trades. (Struggles for words) I wish I had learned more, such a healthy feeling of knowing how to do things with your hand, even though I’m a— I have a college degree, I feel like I never ah, never really knew how to do anything of a practical nature. (Pause) No—Nonetheless, we continue on. We continue on. (Pause) Peoples Temple found the solution, agricultural project, found the solution in its legal services, a drug rehabilitation program, physical therapy, in its medical facilities. All this ballyhoo about healing — and I certainly can heal, and would be glad to take polytaph, polygraph (tape ends)
Tape originally posted January 1999